The Wreck of the Deutschland is unquestionably Gerard Manley Hopkins' master work. It reflects where the true centre of this man of deep spirituality and towering intellect lay - in the heart, which is evoked 18 times during the course of the poem.
The Wreck of the Deutschland was written at the suggestion of a religious superior after Hopkins expressed his personal anguish at the death of 80 people, among whom were five Franciscan nuns, when the German ship The Deutschland ran aground at the mouth of the Thames in early December 1875. The poet-turned-priest was in the seventh year of his nine-year-long training for the Jesuit priesthood. He had maintained a complete literary silence throughout that time.
The Wreck of the Deutschland was written in the months immediately after the ship-wreck. The poem was deemed "unpublishable" both by his Jesuit community and by his close friend, the Poet-Laureate Robert Bridges. When Bridges finally gathered Hopkins' poems together and published them 30 years after his friend's death, he described The Wreck of the Deutschland as, "a great dragon folded in the gate to forbid all entrance."
This audio interpretation represents a small attempt to revise Bridges' sombre judgement and suggests, rather, that this symphonic poem holds an infinite cask of jewelled insights into the nature of Gerard Manley Hopkins and his understanding of human frailty, of human strength, of human tragedy, and of divine mercy.
Taming the Dragon. Gerard Manley Hopkins and The Wreck of the Deutschland, a substantive interpretive analysis of the poem, can be downloaded in PDF form from the DOWNLOAD OPTIONS column opposite.